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By Mark Bell | December 12, 2013

The 2014 Palm Springs International Film Festival, taking place January 3-13, 2014, has announced the Awards Buzz, Canadian Cinema and Modern Masters film selections for its 25th annual event. From the official press release:

The 25th annual Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF), scheduled January 3-13, 2014, announced a new program focusing on Canadian Cinema, as well as films selected to compete for the FIPRESCI Award in the Awards Buzz section, and Modern Masters. The Festival will screen 45 of the 76 official submissions to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Foreign Language Film. Additional film programs will be announced in the upcoming weeks.

“We’ve selected Canadian films for a special focus at this year’s festival for many reasons, not the least of which is the wealth of talent emerging from its relatively small, indigenous film industry, and the depth and richness of story and character portrayal its films exemplify,” said Festival Director Darryl Macdonald. “Whether it’s established auteurs like Denis Coté, Denis Villenueve and Atom Egoyan, gifted actor/directors like Don McKellar and Sarah Polley or newly emerging talents like Chloé Robichaud, Craig Goodwill and Sébastien Pilote, Canadian creative ingenuity is on abundant display in its films. All of this makes our spotlight on Canadian cinema the perfect match for the 25th anniversary of a Festival that has focused on that attribute since its inception.”

“This is an exceptionally strong year for the foreign language Oscar competition, as evidenced by the 45 films we have selected for our “Awards Buzz” competition in Palm Springs,” said Artistic Director Helen du Toit. “In years past there have usually been five to seven films that were considered obvious choices from countries whose films often make the shortlist. But this year there are more obvious choices than usual as well as very exciting group of “dark horses” emerging from countries whose entries rarely make the shortlist – such as Iceland’s Of Horses and Men, Romania’s Child’s Pose, The Palestinian Territories Omar, Mexico’s Heli, Georgia’s In Bloom, and Morocco’s Horses of God. This bodes extremely well for the health and diversity of world cinema.”

The Awards Buzz section is selected by Festival programmers as the strongest entries in this year’s Academy Awards® race. A special jury of international film critics will review these films to award the FIPRESCI Award for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year, Best Actor and Best Actress. The following 45 films are selected to screen (in alphabetical order by country):

  • The German Doctor (Argentina), Director Lucía Puenzo
  • The Rocket (Australia), Director Kim Mordaunt
  • The Wall (Austria), Director Julian Pölsler
  • The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium/Netherlands), Director Felix van Groeningen
  • An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (Bosnia), Director Danis Tanovic
  • The Missing Picture (Cambodia/France), Director Rithy Panh
  • Gabrielle (Canada), Director Louise Archambault
  • Gloria (Chile/Spain), Director Sebastián Lelio
  • Back to 1942 (China), Director Feng Xiaogang
  • Halima’s Path (Croatia/Slovenia/Bosnia-Herzegovina), Director Arsen Anton Ostojic
  • The Hunt (Denmark), Director Thomas Vinterberg
  • Winter of Discontent (Egypt), Director Ibrahim El Batout
  • Disciple (Finland), Director Ulrika Bengts
  • Renoir (France), Director Gilles Bourdos
  • In Bloom (Georgia/Germany/France), Directors Nana Ekvtimishvili, Simon Gross
  • Two Lives (Germany/Norway), Director Georg Maas
  • Le Grand Cahier (Hungary/Germany/Austria/France), Director János Szász
  • Of Horses and Men (Iceland), Director Benedikt Erlingsson
  • The Good Road (India), Director Gyan Correa
  • The Past (Iran/Italy/France), Director Asghar Farhadi
  • Bethlehem (Israel), Director Yuval Adler
  • The Great Beauty (Italy/France), Director Paolo Sorrentino
  • The Great Passage (Japan), Director Yûya Ishii
  • The Old Man (Shal) (Kazakhstan), Director Yermek Tursunov
  • Mother, I Love You (Latvia), Director Janis Nords
  • Heli (Mexico/Germany/Netherlands/France), Director Amat Escalante
  • Horses of God (Morocco/France/Belgium), Director Nabil Ayouch
  • Borgman (Netherlands), Director Alex van Warmerdam
  • White Lies (New Zealand), Director Dana Rotberg
  • I Am Yours (Norway), Director Iram Haq
  • Omar (Palestinian Territory), Director Hany Abu-Assad
  • Transit (Philippines), Director Hannah Espia
  • Walesa. Man of Hope (Poland), Director Andrzej Wajda
  • Child’s Pose (Romania), Director Calin Peter Netzer
  • Stalingrad (Russia), Director Fedor Bondarchuk
  • Wadjda (Saudi Arabia/Germany), Director Haifaa Al Mansour
  • Circles (Serbia/Germany/France/Croatia/Slovenia), Director Srdan Golubovic
  • Ilo Ilo (Singapore), Director Anthony Chen
  • Class Enemy (Slovenia), Director Rok Bicek
  • Juvenile Offender (South Korea), Director Kang Yi-kwan
  • 15 Years and One Day (Spain), Director Gracia Querejeta
  • More Than Honey (Switzerland), Director Markus Imhoof
  • The Butterfly’s Dream (Turkey), Director Yilmaz Erdogan
  • Metro Manila (United Kingdom/Philippines), Director Sean Ellis
  • Anina (Uruguay/Colombia), Director Alfredo Soderguit

Spotlight on Canadian Cinema
Canada receives the spotlight for this year’s special focus on a country or region of the world making extraordinary strides in cinema. Included in the showcase will be an opening weekend reception and ‘Canadian Film Day’ highlighting Canadian filmmaking guests, sponsored by Telefilm Canada. Films in this program feature actors Brendan Gleeson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Taylor Kitsch, Mélanie Laurent, Aidan Quinn, Isabella Rossellini and Taylor Schilling. The 12 films selected in the program include:

  • The Auction (Canada) – In this honest portrait of a family in the midst of change, Sébastien Pilote gives us a pastoral tale of love and quiet sacrifice in rural Quebec, featuring a powerful performance by Gabriel Arcand. Director: Sébastien Pilote. Cast: Gabriel Arcand, Gilles Renaud, Lucie Laurier, Sophie Desmarais, Johanne-Marie Tremblay, Gabriel Tremblay.
  • Empire of Dirt (Canada) – An affecting portrait of three generations of Cree women caught up in a cycle of teenage pregnancy and mistrust finally beginning to put their past behind them and figure out a way forward together. Director: Peter Stebbings. Cast: Cara Gee, Shay Eyre, Jennifer Podemski, Luke Kirby, Jordan Prentice, Lawrence Bayne, Michael Cram.
  • Enemy (Canada) – In a dual role, Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a professor who frantically seeks out his doppelganger, a struggling actor he spots in a film. The Oscar®-nominated director of Incendies and Prisoners puts a masterful spin on this mind-bending Kafkaesque mystery. Director: Denis Villeneuve. Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, Isabella Rossellini.
  • Gabrielle (Canada) – Gabrielle Marion-Rivard gives an extraordinarily expressive, moving performance as a developmentally challenged young woman who falls in love with a boy she sings with in the choir – to the dismay of the young man’s overly protective mother. Director: Louise Archambault. Cast: Gabrielle Marion-Rivard, Alexandre Landry, Melissa Désormeaux-Poulin, Vincent-Guillaume Otis, Benoit Gouin, Sébastien Ricard, Isabelle Vincent, Marie Gignac.
  • Gerontophilia (Canada) – An 18-year-old lad with a penchant for pensioners takes a job in a care home and falls for an 81-year-old man. Shocking? The big shock here is that director LaBruce eschews his usual hardcore style for a film that is positively gentle and pleasing. Director: Bruce LaBruce. Cast: Pier-Gabriel Lajoie, Walter Border, Katie Boland, Marie-Hélène Thibault.
  • The Grand Seduction (Canada) – Rollicking humor and quiet moments of whimsy anchor this droll comedy about some Newfoundland villagers, led by the great Brendan Gleeson’s wily fisherman, who use any means necessary to convince a big-city doctor (Taylor Kitsch) to save their community by settling in it. Director: Don McKellar. Cast: Brendan Gleeson, Taylor Kitsch, Liane Balaban, Gordon Pinsent, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh.
  • The Manor (Canada) – A documentary about your typical Jewish suburban family: mom, dad, two kids and the family business – a strip club in a place called Guelph. Director: Shawney Cohen.
  • Patch Town (Canada) – Inspired by his award-winning short film that screened at Palm Springs ShortFest in 2012. Craig Goodwill’s wildly creative feature debut is a wacky, satirical musical fantasy about a grown-up toy who must battle a villainous corporation to reunite with his long-lost mother, protect his newfound family, and finally find freedom. Director: Craig Goodwill. Cast: Rob Ramsay, Zoie Palmer, Julian Richings, Suresh John, Scott Thompson, Ken Hall.
  • Sarah Prefers to Run (Canada) – Chloé Robichaud’s debut feature is a highly assured, subtle, observational film about a young middle-distance runner making the leap to a big city university team, but stumbling in the adult world of relationships and responsibilities. Director: Chloé Robichaud. Cast: Sophie Desmarais, Jean-Sébastien Courchesne, Geneviève Boivin-Roussy, Helene Florent, Eve Duranceau, Micheline Lanctot, Pierre-Luc Lafontaine, Benoit Gouin.
  • Siddharth (Canada) – A street merchant regrets sending away his 12-year-old son to work in a factory when the boy fails to return home for Diwali. Thus begins a desperate search, hindered by the man’s poverty, illiteracy, and the challenge of locating anyone in a country of a billion souls. Director: Richie Mehta. Cast: Mahendra Saini, Suman Saini, Ranjit Gahlot, Meena Gahlot, Roshni.
  • Stay (Canada) – An appealing romantic drama, about a young woman ¬– living in Ireland with an ex-professor – whose unplanned pregnancy causes her to question her future. Director: Wiebke von Carolsfeld. Cast: Taylor Schilling, Aidan Quinn, Barry Keoghan, Nika McGuigan, Chris McHallem, Brian Gleeson, Michael Ironside.
  • Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Canada) – Victoria, an ex-convict in her sixties, wants to start a new life in a remote sugar shack. Under the supervision of Guillaume, a young, sympathetic parole officer, she tries to get her life back on track along with Florence, her former cellmate with whom she shared years of intimacy in prison. Stalked by ghosts of the past, their new life together is unexpectedly jeopardized. Director: Denis Côté. Cast: Pierrette Robitaille, Romane Bohringer, Marc-André Grondin.

The Modern Masters section features 10 films from international directors who set the standards for contemporary cinema including from the Canadian Cinema program Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy along with films from directors Vinko Bresan, François Dupeyron, Agnieszka Holland, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Claude Lanzmann, Hayao Miyazaki, Errol Morris, Avi Nesher, and François Ozon.

  • Burning Bush (Czech Republic) – An epic docudrama examining the emotional, political and societal fallout from Czech student Jan Palach’s 1969 self-immolation. Director: Agnieszka Holland. Cast: Tatiana Pauhofovå, Jaroslava Pokomå, Petr Stach, Jan Budar, Martin Huba, Ivan Trojan.
  • The Last of the Unjust (France) – Claude Lanzmann, whose epic, landmark film Shoah is certainly the definitive film about the Holocaust – returns to one of the interview subjects from that film to unravel the tale of the ‘model’ concentration camp, Theresienstadt, and the ambiguous leader of its Jewish Council, Benjamin Murmelstein, a former rabbi who spent the war years negotiating on a day-to-day basis with Adolf Eichmann. Director: Claude Lanzmann. Cast: Benjamin Murmelstein and Claude Lanzmann.
  • Like Father, Like Son (Japan) – Two couples are devastated to learn that their children were swapped at birth six years ago. This masterly, very moving drama won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Director: Hirokazu Kore-eda. Cast: Masaharu Fukuyama, Machiko Ono, Yoko Maki, Lily Franky, Keita Ninomiya, Hwang Sho-gen.
  • One of a Kind (France) – This soul-stirring tale – about a depressed middle-aged man who hesitatingly embraces his gift for healing – features a riveting turn from Grégory Gadebois (so effective in the cult TV fave The Returned) in the lead. A deeply satisfying chronicle of personal redemption. Director: François Dupeyron. Cast: Grégory Gadebois, Céline Sallette, Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Marie Payen, Philippe Rebbot.
  • The Priest’s Children (Croatia) – In this acerbic satire, a naïve Catholic clergyman tries to boost the birth rate among his Dalmatian island flock, but his plan sparks a host of unintended consequences. Director: Vinko Bresan. Cast: Kresimir Mikic, Niksa Butijer, Marija Skaricic, Drazen Kuhn, Jadranka Dokic, Lazar Ristovski.
  • The Unknown Known (USA) – In his new documentary, Errol Morris takes on the enigma that is Donald Rumsfeld. Or is it Rumsfeld taking on the enigma that is Errol Morris? Either way, it is a fascinating pas de deux not to be missed. Director: Errol Morris. Cast: Donald Rumfeld and Errol Morris.
  • The Wind Rises (Japan) Anime sensei Hayao Miyazaki has always been fascinated by flight. In what he says will be his swansong, he has conjured an extraordinarily lyrical biopic of sorts, inspired by the experiences of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the famous Japanese Zero fighter plane. Director: Hayao Miyazaki. Cast: Hideaki Anno, Miori Takimoto, Hidetoshi Nishijima, Masahiko Nishimura, Jun Kunimura, Mirai Shida.
  • The Wonders(Israel) – A genial slacker, a private investigator and a femme fatale join forces to rescue a kidnapped holy man in this unusual dramedy. Director: Avi Nesher. Cast: Ori Hizkiah, Efrat Gosh, Adir Miller, Yehuda Levi, Yuval Scharf.
  • Young & Beautiful (France) – Model-turned-actor Marine Vacth is uncanny as a well-bred 17-year-old Parisienne who chooses to work as an expensive call girl. A controversial provocation from Ozon, with a visual finesse and a nonjudgmental tone that makes it genuinely disturbing. Director: François Ozon. Cast: Martine Vacth, Géraldine Pailhas, Frédéric Pierrot, Johan Leysen, Charlotte Rampling.

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